Obviously, being fat made it easy to be an alt girl. The real question is, “did being an alt girl make it easier to be fat?”

Can you pinpoint the exact moment of the dawn of your teenage rebellion? I’ve narrowed mine down to two instances. It was either the last romantic rejection from a preppy/rapper boy, or it was the first time I realized how fucking cool I looked in a Prodigy T-shirt, giving precisely zero fucks on the irony of putting “Fat of the Land” in big block letters over my already-ample rack.

Scratch that: I gave a good fuckload of fucks. I gave way too much of a fuck about everything. I prayed to a god I no longer believed in that no one would make a fat joke or I might just crumble into dust. But then again, that didn’t sound too bad to me at the point. 1997 was the backdrop to all of this. I was 13, I was tired of being miserable, and I was ready to get really, crazy, shitballs angry.

But let’s rewind a bit. If you went to school with me a year before that, you might only remember me for one reason. Not to brag, but I ran with a pretty important crowd. I managed to convince the popular pretty girls they needed a full-time mascot. My qualifications included not at all being a competitive threat and always making them feel better about themselves. After all, they could get a pimple or a bad haircut, but at least they weren’t fat. Thank God!

This hiding-in-plain-sight was my only method of visibility at this point. Surviving off secondhand attention and social accolades by association. Being “nice.” Counseling my friends through the torrid tweenage love affairs, which I dared not even dream to have. I think the turning point was my growing tired of the taste of their scraps and realizing I would never be an equal there — or maybe anywhere?

That, right there. My place is nowhere. Middle fingers in the air.

alt culture Briana

Obviously, alt culture is attractive to the depressed and angry. The music is aggressive. The fashion is visually assaulting. Not to mention, DIY fashion is a godsend to a fat kid. Making it cool to crudely cut things into a custom fit was incredibly freeing. Do you even know how hard it is to be a fat prep? The clothes are crisp and impeccable, everything in its proper place. Yet there is no proper place on the glorious chaos of my fat body. Shit moves around. Things are untucked, rolled up, ripped, stretched and wrinkled. To know that I didn’t have to give a shit about that any more was enough to completely enamor me.

Related: Being Weird and Black Doesn’t Mean You’re Interested in Being White

When I started sniffing around the skateboarders and putting myself through the punk-rock academy, I had some sense that this new scene wouldn’t be perfectly unproblematic. I didn’t realize at that point that my main struggle in life was a thing called fatphobia, but I did know that that thing would follow me here, too. I knew my place as a fat girl. But at least here, I could have a personality. I could be more than “nice.” I felt like a fat wolf peeling off sheep’s clothing. I could breathe.

alt culture Briana

The author, second from the left.

Obviously, being fat made it easy to be an alt girl. The real question is, “did being an alt girl make it easier to be fat?”

My body didn’t suddenly become valid to other people the minute I slapped on a Dead Kennedys hoodie. The boys didn’t come a-runnin’ after I discovered the curative properties of thick black eyeliner. Skater culture may have accepted freaks of all shapes and sizes, but there were clear hierarchies and privileges. One time, a skater guy I liked rejected me for another girl. Was she smaller? Yes. Did she shower, like, ever? Doubtful.

Yet through it all, I do think being fat became easier in a way it couldn’t have without alt culture. Embracing rebellion, freedom of expression, and pissing people off definitely toughened me up enough to successfully and unapologetically navigate life in a fat body. Learning how to say “fuck the government” was the perfect precursor to saying “eff your beauty standards.”

Another thing it taught me was invaluable — I was wrong about not belonging anywhere. Sure, the alt clique wasn’t the best fit, but it was a better one. If I could keep finding better fits with the people I choose to let into my life, I could eventually find “my people.” Lo and behold, I did find fat acceptance. I found other people who spent years angry and dejected only to realize none of that had anything to do with them. I found my own pack of snarling, beautiful little rebels. Fat middle fingers in the air.

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